Thursday, April 10, 2014

THE ALLURE OF SMALL TOWN ROMANCES by CATHERINE LANIGAN



     For those of you who may know me, I spent the bulk of my life living in cities. Houston, Los Angeles, Scottsdale, even a stint in New Orleans. And a great many of my romances and women’s fiction novels were set in even bigger places, Paris, London, Venice, Moscow. So, now what would look like “all of a sudden”, I am not only living in my hometown, a small town, but I am writing a series of romances set in the small Indiana town of Indian Lake.

      I moved back home ostensibly to take care of my aging and ill mother whom the doctors thought only had about a year to live. My husband and I, rented out his house in Scottsdale, packed up a very large truck full of furniture and Christmas ornaments (a story in itself), and moved into the home my parents built in 1950. A few months before the trek from Arizona to Indiana, my sister and I had moved my mother to an assisted living facility since mother was no longer able to care for herself. Within nine months of my move back home, my sister was diagnosed with cancer and five months later she died. Two years later, my mother died.

      This first book in my series, LOVE SHADOWS, was born out of my grief over losing my two best friends and most loving supporters in my life. It wasn’t hard for me to imagine what my heroine and hero would endure as they trod through days of depression before they learned to open their hearts and love again. 

      Writing has always been cathartic for me, if not an absolute escape from things I’d rather not do, especially dusting, grocery shopping and weeding the garden. But as I began to build my idealized version of my hometown, Indian Lake, I also looked around with new eyes to see what small towns were all about and just who were these fascinating people that populated them.

     From the fact that my town has a thirty-one year old female mayor, who is ex-Navy and looks like a cover girl model, to the dedicated and energetic eighty-something-year-old woman who had been organizing “Arts in the Park” free open-air summer concerts for decades, I found dozens of stories without even looking. My list of strong, independent, sometimes eccentric women and men grew faster than I could write down their names and particular foibles. I drew out a grid of the core of the town and as I placed each house, I knew each person had to have neighbors, which created more characters. And those neighbors had to have children and cousins, co-workers and dogs. Lots of dogs. A story, and a life, isn’t complete without animals, I believe.

      You would think that as I started actually putting down each story into a synopsis, that my “running to the well” would whittle my pile of characters and plots down to size. Not so. Each time I’ve written a story, one of the characters who was innocently purchasing a bottle of wine at the Crenshaw Vineyard or buying a cupcake at Cupcakes and Coffee Cafe, was soon destined to find themselves embroiled in a tumultuous love story of their own.  I like to think out of the box and stretch myself, though sometimes, I’m a bit too elastic like that guy in the Fantastic Four.. My very astute editors, Victoria Curran and Claire Caldwell, have given me a green light to explore a romance between a couple who are well into their fifties. I’ve even started to develop a sweet romance between Grandpa Sam who is seventy-five years old and a younger woman who is about to become a widow in my next book.
      
      And that is what I have discovered about small towns, large cities and even foreign capitals. It doesn’t matter where you live, love is what makes life worth living. Without love, we just exist. A life without love, is no life at all.



16 comments:

  1. I love small town romances and stories with a happy ending - like the one you seem to have found in real life. Welcome to Heartwarming and our blog!

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    1. Thanks, Mel!
      I am so thankful for all the help from you, Pam and Rula so that I could figure this thing out. But I love the blog! Love it.

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  2. First, so sorry for your losses. Losing those we love, especially our cheerleaders, is one of the most difficult things to endure in life. I'm glad you found solace through your writing. I too am from a big city, NYC, but now call NC home for the past nearly 11 years. I have nothing against NY, but I have to admit that I prefer small town living. Although I don't live in a small town now, I am surrounded by many, and appreciate the familiar faces, independent shops and slower pace that exists in them. I kind of feel like I have the best of both worlds. And bonus, I'm only 2 hours away from the beautiful Smokey Mountains. Nice post, thanks for getting my day off to a thought filled start.

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    1. Laurie,
      I love the Smokey Mountains. There is just so much majesty and timelessness there. Lucky you!

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  3. Two in a row about mothers. I really miss mine Sounds like an awesome book. Glad you're here.

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    1. Thanks, Pam for ALL your help! Did I need you or what???

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  4. Catherine, I'm so looking forward to reading your Heartwarming stories. I'm sorry for your double loss so close together. Not that they're easy any time. I grew up in a small town and as a young woman I couldn't wait to shake the dust and get out to see the world. Many of my friends did the same. Oddly now many of them have gone back to the area and have bought and refurbished the old farmhouses. I look back with fondness, too, but I'm happy in a mid-sized place now. Still I don't have the closeness of friends helping friends like I had growing up.

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    1. Hi, Roz!
      You are describing me down to a T. I was just like that growing up. I wanted to move out and see the world. ALL of it and the more exotic, the better. Well, after doing all that, I am back and finding all kinds of lovely things that a small town has to offer, I have to say, that there is just as much human DRAMA here as anywhere else. It is just the human condition, I suppose.

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  5. Welcome, Catherine. I grew up in an industrial city in Massachusetts, we moved to L.A. when I was 10, met my husband there, then moved to small-town Oregon in my thirties - and love, love this life! I soon learned that a small town doesn't mean that the people who live there are small in any way. They do big things, have big dreams and love their friends and families - and the world - in a big way. Indian Lake sounds like a rich and wonderful place to put all your emotion and experience.

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    1. Muriel,
      This is so ironic. Next week on Easter Sunday I will be flying to LA! My husband is there working and I'll be there for a week. He says the traffic is an absolute nightmare. My cousins live in Oregon and they LOVE it there. You are so lucky! Can't wait to read your new book!

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  6. Sounds like a place I'd like to read about.

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    1. Marion, I loved your post the other day about your mother. It was touching and haunting. I'll never forget it.

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  7. I can't wait to read your book, Catherine. Not only could I look at that gorgeous cover forever, but it sounds so rich with emotion and experience. I'm so sorry for all the loss you've endured.

    I've lived in Houston and other big cities as well as small towns (like now) and I'm definitely a small town girl at heart :). Welcome to the group, Catherine!! :)

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    1. Rula, you were a God-send to me and at such a wrenching time for you. Truly, you'll go straight to heaven for tending to my mass of nerves and terror to start blogging and ministering to your son at the same time. Nerves of steel. That's you.

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  8. Your romance series sounds wonderful. I'm especially looking forward to the couple in their 50s

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    1. Hi, Karen,
      ME, TOO!!! That one has been rattling around in my head for three years. Hmm. Now, as to just HOW to do it. Ponder. Ponder.

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